CONFESSING CHRIST IN A WORLD OF VIOLENCE
Declaration of American Theologians on War and Peace
[This declaration from Jan 1, 1970 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.rosalux.de/index.php?id=6668.]
Our world suffers under violence and war.
But Jesus says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt 5,9). Innocent persons here and abroad are increasingly frightened and endangered by terrorist attacks.
But Jesus says: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5,44). These words that were never easy seem even more difficult today.
However a time comes when silence means betrayal.
How many churches have preached about this since September 11, 2001?
Where was the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean adjusting to the endless succession of preventive wars? Does it mean closing our ideas to torture and a large number of victims among the civilian population? Does it mean acting out of fear and prejudice more than understanding and reserve?
Confessing Christ in faith is the task of the church. This is especially true when its confession is accompanied by militarism and nationalism.
A "theology of war" starts from the highest circle of the American government:
- The language of divinely justified rule is used increasingly.
- The meaning of God, church and nation is blurred by the "mission" and "divine commission to liberate the world from evil."
The security interests of our nation forbid simple solutions. No one has a monopoly on truth. However a politics that refuses international counsel should not put on the mantle of religiosity. Political idolatry is strengthened today by a politics of fear. In this crisis time, we need a new confession of Christ.
1. Jesus Christ as attested to us in holy scripture does not know any national borders. Those who confess him live everywhere on earth.
Our obligation toward Christ is stronger than national identity. Whenever Christianity makes compromises with worldly power, the gospel of Christ is discredited.
We reject the false doctrine as though one nation or state can be described with the words "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Joh 1,5).
This scriptural word refers to Christ alone. No political leader has the right to use this word in service of war.
2. Christ obligates Christians to a clear position against war. The fearsome destructive force of modern warfare underscores this obligation. In the shadow of the cross, Christians have the obligation to estimate the costs, damages and price, to raise their voices for the victims and seek every alternative before their nation goes to war.
We are committed to international cooperation more than to one-sided political adventures.
We reject the false doctrine that a war against terrorism has a priority over ethical and legal norms. Some things should never happen: torture, bombing civilians for no reason at all and using weapons of mass destruction - irrespective of the consequences.
3. Christ commands us to see the beam in our own eye, not only the splinter in our brother's eye. Alexander Solzchenizyn remarked that the distinction between good and evil is not between one nation and another or one group and another. The distinction goes through the human heart.
We reject the false doctrine that America is a "Christian nation" that only represents the good while its adversaries are only evil. We also reject the opinion that America has nothing to repent and the opinion that America reflects the majority of evil in the world. "For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift (Rom 3,23-24)."
4. Christ shows us that love of the enemy is the center of the gospel. "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, now that we are reconciled , shall we be saved by his life (Rom 5,8.10)."
We should love our enemies since we believe: God loves us and the whole world in Christ.
Love of the enemy does not mean capitulating to hostile plans or superior force. Demonizing any human life created according to God's image should be refused.
We reject the false doctrine that a person can stand outside the protection of the law.
We reject the demonization of assumed enemies since this only paves the way to mistrust.
We reject the abuse of prisoners, let alone advantages for those who took them prisoner or their guards.
5. Christ teaches us that humility is the virtue that comes to the forgiven sinner. Humility moderates all political conflicts and concedes our own political perceptions in a complex world can be false.
We reject the false doctrine that those who are not politically for our nation are against it or that those who question American policy are "evil." Such gross distinctions, particularly when they come from Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy in which the world is divided in absolute good and absolute evil. The Lord Jesus Christ is either authoritative for Christians or he is not. His rule may not be scorned by any earthly power. His words may not be twisted for propagandistic goals. No nation or state may replace God.
We believe acknowledging these truths is indispensable for Christ's discipleship. We urgently call you to remember these principles when you make your decisions as citizens. Creating peace is the heart of our calling in an endangered world in which Christ is Lord.
George Washington, Ivey, Professor of New Testament; Georg Hunsicker; Richard V. Pierard; Hazel Thompson McCord, Professor of Systematic Theology Princeton; Glen Stassen; Richard B. Hays; Levis Smedes, Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary